When I first started out in ministry, I was often amazed by the number of pastoral failures I witnessed. Now I am not so shocked when I hear of those who sputter and stall-out. Ministry can indeed be tough and tricky!
Apart from the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit, no one would last. Because of this, I believe three commitments are essential for those who want to survive and thrive in the ministry.
1. Protect your private worship. Jesus gave us an example in this regard. Massive throngs of people regularly jockeyed to get a piece of His time. On one occasion, those who wanted to see Him actually had to rip a roof off of a house so that they could gain an audience with Him (Mark 2:1-5).
One could argue that Jesus was much busier and that He had far more demands from people than any modern minister. Despite His responsibilities, Jesus made time to pray. Mark records, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying” (Mark 1:35).
If Jesus protected His private worship, shouldn’t we? Know this, your public ministry will be stale if it isn’t backed by private prayer. Though no one may keep tabs on the quality of your quiet time, the Lord knows. Don’t rob yourself of the strength and joy that comes from private worship. Be like Jesus; make prayer a priority.
2. Don’t forget your family. For those who serve in ministry, the homestead is the frontline of ministry. If we fail with our family, we fail in the church. Paul emphasized this when he wrote to Timothy. He taught his protégé that aspiring pastors and deacons should be well-versed in managing their own households (1 Tim. 3:4, 12).
If an ordained individual failed in this regard, Paul cast doubt on whether such an individual should engage in church leadership. He asked, “How will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5).
For the apostle, the home place was the proving ground for public ministry. It was where one demonstrated his ability to teach, train, provide a godly example, love, be patient and lead.
If you want to thrive in the ministry, don’t forget your family. Make them a priority in your schedule, and make them your first ministry.
Be on guard against a duplicitous lifestyle through which you are one thing in the home, and something different in the church. Date your wife and spend quality time with your children. Lead family devotions in the home. If you can lead your family to Christ, you will be well-equipped to lead others to Christ.
3. Stick with Scripture. My grandfather was a preacher for more than 50 years. When I was scheduled to preach my first sermon, I went to him for advice. He told me, “Stick with the Bible, and you’ll never go wrong.” I’ve found that his advice is appropriate for much more than preaching.
Throughout my ministry, I’ve relied on the rock of Scripture for counseling situations, difficult decisions, pastoral care, leading ministry and countless other pastoral situations. At times, I’ve often felt helpless to encourage, equip and edify God’s people, but I’ve found comfort in the fact that the Bible is “profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). If you want to faithfully navigate the choppy waters of ministry in a post-modern, relativistic culture, stick with the standard of Scripture!